A significant player on a team heading in to the final year of his contract can sometimes be consumed about where exactly his future may lie past that season.
It sure doesn't seem like the Buffalo Bills will have to worry about that with budding star safety Jairus Byrd any time soon.
The fourth year player has one year left on his rookie contract and said he's not bothered with the thought of injuries or what will exactly happen after the year has come and gone. He's focused on one thing, and one thing only.
"I'm here for another year, and we have a chance to do something really cool this year, so I'm excited about that," Byrd said on Tuesday. "That's really all I'm thinking about."
Although, he did admit that it's human nature to want to see what the Bills began right through to the completed product.
"When I came here from where we started and the moves that they've made, what you see kind of happening, you kind of want to finish off what you started," Byrd remarked. "That's the mentality that I have. You do kind of think about it, but it's not time for that."
It certainly is an enviable position. The safety is entering what looks to be the prime of his career still at the age of 25, and he had his most complete season to date in 2011.
Years removed from his rookie campaign in which Byrd collected nine interceptions in 2009 for the Bills, in 2011 it seemed as though he put it all together for a season full of both turnovers and sure tackling on a weekly basis.
Playing in all 16 games, Byrd had 98 tackles (third on the team), eight passes defended, three interceptions, three forced fumbles (first on the team) and even chipped in a sack. He also rated in the top 15 for tackling efficiency at the safety position in both coverage and against the run by ProFootballFocus.com.
Which is why, after a year like his, Byrd's mentality heading in to the upcoming season will likely be met with many smiles from adoring fans of the Buffalo Bills. Not only did he show much improvement against the run, he proved to be an asset for the defense. Byrd isn't happy just yet, however.
"That's just a part that I've tried to work on, and I'm not where I want to be at," the free safety declared. "There's still a lot that I can improve on and with the help of the coaches we have -- [George] Catavolos and Adrian White -- those guys are really helping me and staying on me. I'd like to just take another step. There's more room out there and I just want to continue to push. I never want to settle."
That mentality is likely what has helped Byrd establish himself as a solid safety in the NFL. League-wide you'll see players drafted within the first few rounds that rest on their laurels and keep a complacent mindset to where they never live up to their potential.
"Man, the NFL stands for 'Not For Long,' I'm sure you've heard that. I understand that," Byrd said. "I really just want to be the best that I can be. I gotta keep working. You never know [if] you're one play away. I just want to make every play like it's my last. I want to go out there and just make a difference."
Having to deal with a hearty amount of turnover since joining the Bills in 2009, the safety will now be working under his third defensive coordinator, Dave Wannstedt, in just four seasons in the league. Although Byrd admitted most the terminology is the same, it's just a matter of the players knowing Wannstedt's go-to coverages down pat for in-game situations.
When most think of the Wannstedt defenses throughout his time in the league, defensive ends and middle linebackers are the ones that get the most notoriety. However, in an 11-year span between the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins, his defense churned out Pro Bowl free safeties in four separate seasons.
Mark Carrier made the Pro Bowl with the Bears in 1993, and Brock Marion did it three times in five years with the Dolphins and Wannstedt. Byrd knows he has a great chance to make an even bigger impact with the combination of scheme and added pieces to the defensive line this off-season.
"Hopefully [I'll be] making a lot of plays," he said. "I know coach has talked about everything starting with the front. The front and the back end work together, so if they're rolling, then we should be rolling."
When asked if he'd taken a look at any film from Wannstedt's years with the Dolphins, the never complacent Byrd perked his ears up and replied:
"I actually haven't watched any of that, but that's a really good idea."
Byrd is in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. He said on Tuesday that he's relaxed about the contract situation, and doesn't even know if there has been any dialogue to this point. Byrd is letting his agent, Eugene Parker, take care of anything on that front.
Byrd and the Bills resume another day of Organized Team Activities on Thursday at One Bills Drive.